Parent says fake profile was used for fake reviews of local dance company

OCOEE, Fla. — A local parent claims a dance school refused to refund thousands of dollars after her daughter quit classes.

The mother blames the school’s contract and is raising questions about its online reviews.

Lacey Rodriguez is a protective parent who didn’t like what happened at N.Y.C. Dance Company. “What kind of person have I entrusted my kid with for the last few years?” she said.

Rodriguez said her daughter was held back after three years. She said her family was upset and felt burned when the school refused to return thousands of dollars in advanced fees after her daughter withdrew.

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“It’s her way or the highway basically,” Rodriguez said, describing her interactions with N.Y.C. Dance Director Kristin Kehley.

Rodriguez blames Kehley for suggesting she should withdraw her daughter because the relationship wasn’t working.

Rodriguez sued the company in small claims court, alleging the company refused to refund $4,700 in upfront fees for classes, performances and costumes that would never be used.

“She likes to point it out to people that whether you are asked to leave or whether you choose to leave on your own for any reason, she’s still due whatever monies were originally due,” Rodriguez said.

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Online there are many N.Y.C. Dance Company reviews. Some are very critical of the school’s classes and contracts, but by far, most reviews are very positive.

Several reviews on Facebook are from the same woman who claims to have a daughter at N.Y.C. Dance Company. The woman uses the name Sarah Longberger. She lists an Orlando address, a UCF degree and claims to work at WFTV Channel 9.

Rodriguez said she became suspicious after this person criticized some school parents online. “None of us knew this parent. We didn’t know the child either,” she said.

Action 9 found it is a fake profile. The profile picture actually belongs to a woman in Pennsylvania, and there’s no Sarah Longberger working at Channel 9.

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Rodriguez questions the mystery person’s motives.

N.Y.C. Dance Company is located in Ocoee. Todd Ulrich attempted to speak with the director, but no one responded at the door.

Kehley called Ulrich back. She said the contract discloses all the fees and the no-refund policy. She also claimed Rodriguez still owes the school money and that the company did nothing wrong. Kehley said N.Y.C. Dance Company has a 16-year outstanding reputation as a positive role model for children.

The company’s director also told Action 9 a lot of parents write reviews online and she doesn’t know who is behind the fake posts.

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Rodriguez doesn’t think she’s been treated fairly. “She’s able to profit before things even take place,” she said.

Refunds for dance schools, music lessons or private tutoring will depend on the contract you sign. So make sure you have options if your child has to withdraw for any reason.

N.Y.C. Dance Company response:

We are already engaged in a legal suit with Mrs. Rodriguez in which my side of the situation is correctly being presented, this story only undermines the due process of the legal system and I will not be a part of that.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.